WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has added formaldehyde and seven other substances to its Report on Carcinogens, what the HHS describes as: "a science-based document that identifies chemicals and biological agents that may put people at increased risk for cancer."

Formaldehyde, an ingredient used in resins to produce particleboard, MDF and plywood, and a botanical known as aristolochic acids were selected by HHS to be listed as known human carcinogens. Six other substances — captafol, cobalt-tungsten carbide (in powder or hard metal form), certain inhalable glass wool fibers, o-nitrotoluene, riddelliine, and styrene — wee added as substances that are reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens. With these additions, the 12th Report on Carcinogens now includes 240 listings.

The HHS noted that a listing in the Report on Carcinogens does not by itself mean that a substance will cause cancer. Many factors, including the amount and duration of exposure, and an individual's susceptibility to a substance, affect whether a person will develop cancer.

Formaldehyde was first listed in the HHS' 2nd Report on Carcinogens as a substance that was reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen, after laboratory studies showed it caused nasal cancer in rats. The HHS said there is now sufficient evidence from studies in humans to show that individuals with higher measures of exposure to formaldehyde are at increased risk for certain types of rare cancers, including nasopharyngeal (the nasopharnyx is the upper part of the throat behind the nose), sinonasal, as well as a specific cancer of the white blood cells known as myeloid leukemia.

The Composite Panel Association, the ACC Formaldehyde Panel, American Wood Council and American Forest & Paper Association had urged the National Toxicology Program (NTP) to give consideration to the National Academy of Science (NAS) findings that offered contrary evidence of formaldehyde's potential health effects.

The AF&PA stated, "The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ignored the recently released, independent, peer-review report from the National Research Council, which strongly questioned whether the scientific evidence supports the claim of formaldehyde causing leukemia. Formaldehyde is found naturally in a wide range of foods such as fruit, vegetables, mushrooms and seafood. It is also a normal product of human metabolism.

The AF&PA called the HHS listing of formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen a "bad policy" because "(T)his decision by the HHS contradicts President Obama’s pledge in a March 9, 2009, executive order that ‘Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration…’”

The AF&PA added that the formaldehyde' upgraded classification is "bad for economy" because "formaldehyde is used in many products – from building materials to pharmaceuticals – this unscientific decision by the HHS could risk thousands of U.S. jobs during a prolonged economic recovery."
Posted by Rich Christianson

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